I long for the deep and real things in life, yet probably at the same time I run from the very things I desire. The deep and real things in life can often be messy and will probably cost me something. Most likely, it’s going be hard and sometimes complicated. There’s certain to be moments of disappointment and failure, but this is the very thing I am called to in surrendering my life to Jesus. My life is not my own.

Not only am I called to it, but if I want to know the richness and rewards of Kingdom centered relationships, I must be willing to step into the messy parts as well. We will reap the rewards of life-giving community only after we have lived through the imperfect parts . . . loved because of the imperfection . . . and learn through the application.

If we want to know the deep riches of biblical community (and we should), the choice must be made to walk through the hard together. It will take work, time, energy, and lots of prayer. Remember and take heart . . . good things require work, but the rewards of authentic God-focused community far outweigh the cost.

My heart LONGS for real conversations that allow for the sharing of real struggles . . . real admissions of who we are . . . and the REAL HOPE we have because of JESUS. It’s learning to be true about who we are and where we are, yet full of hope that there is more. My friends, there is purpose in what we go through.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The Word of God commands us to encourage one another. For that to happen, we must endeavor to BE with one another. In todays world, there is a plethora of shallow windows that masquerade as a means to genuine relationships. The various screens we view serve many purposes, but they will never replace the need for face to face human interaction. When we depend on screens and social websites for “friendships” – we are left lacking as it comes to the deep, God-given need for relationship.

When we ask God to give us the bravery to enter into deep friendship . . . often in the middle of the deep struggles, life becomes richer. We see more of who God is in this kind of friendship.

Still, there are times that discouragement sets in and I struggle to press on. I struggle to reach out and connect when the weight of my own issues feels heavy.

I look around, and so many dear people are there with me. What we hoped for and what we have are not the same, and then, somehow over the years we lose our joy and anticipation. Before we know it, we are going through the motions. We shrink back from real interaction and honest conversation, preferring to hide behind screens. Thus, we no longer find ourselves hoping with expectation, we instead discover that we have lost the beauty of life. We isolate in self-protection. Life is far from what we imagined . . . can our hearts bear it . . . are we alone in this journey . . . does anyone really see us . . . do we matter . . . will anyone show up for us?

The persistent lies from the enemy of our soul can overwhelm our minds and hearts. Before we know it, we are believing the enemy and become absorbed into our own little world of misery and self pity. When that happens, we only sink deeper into despair and continue to lose hope. It becomes all about us. We’re left to meditate on what was “done to us”- what we “don’t have” – or what we thought “was deserved.” It is in that moment we totally turn inward and experience selfishness, pain, anger, bitterness, hurt, self sufficiency, and pride. Many of us will get really busy to distract ourselves from the reality of what is going on in our hearts. The enemy tempts us with distractions to help numb the pain and emptiness of our hearts.

 “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Oh friend, it’s time to wake up to what is going on!

This is a real battle. We have a real enemy who is out to destroy our faith. If you belong to Christ, you will face this battle. When you are growing into what God has created you to be; when you are pursuing to know God . . . the enemy who hates you, will do his best to deter your progress.

Remember that Satan is called a deceiver . . . so pray that you will not be deceived . . . pray that your eyes will be opened to the TRUTH . . . pray that you will not live a lie . . . pray for LIFE GIVING friendships with people who walk with God . . . pray for strength to STAND and NOT GIVE UP . . . pray for your friends and lift up their needs . . . pray with a heart full of thanksgiving that in Christ we have all we need, therefore we can freely give . . . pray about EVERYTHING . . . pray and BELIEVE God.

Then WAIT ON THE LORD . . . BE with Him. Let Him refresh our soul and heal our wounds, meeting our deepest needs. He promises to be our strength when we abide in Him!

The Bible speaks so much about the need for us to be renewed daily through God’s Word. We are instructed to seek – ask – knock . . . to pursue God in a daily relationship. He is always pursuing us. He’s waiting for us to respond . . . to come . . . to be . . . to know Him and His great love for us.

God loves us! Just look to the Cross . . . the Gospel tells the story – Jesus lives and we are His!

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

So why do I despair? Why do I wrestle and doubt and worry?

When I look at my problems and not to my Savior I will only see what is wrong. Honestly, there are weeks and probably even months that I spend WAY too much time dwelling on what’s wrong or missing instead of focusing on what I do have that is good.

There are times circumstances feel crushing, and I honestly wrestle to LET GO and believe God. God can do what I cannot. He’s allowed me to have some heavy things in my life that keep me dependent on HIM . . . how good of God to cause me to need Him. How merciful of Him to allow me to live in circumstances where everything is not perfect and tidy. It’s messy, complicated, and hard . . . yet incredibly wonderful. In all these things, He will be greatly glorified, because I cannot do it. Only He can!

When I look to Heaven, I am reminded that NOTHING is too hard for my King. I am reminded of who He is and what He can do. I hold fast to the truth that God is control of my life and that every circumstance I face, He is sovereign over. I remember what He has said that allows me to set my mind and heart on His Truth . . . and that leads to Peace.

Peace may come, and I may still be struggling with my emotions and feelings while living in circumstances I did or didn’t choose . . . but that is only a feeling . . . and I can choose to not allow those emotions to not control me. My heart and mind are dwelling on Truth now and that will dictate how I respond and live out my faith. All the while, enduring the pain of living in a broken world and the consequences of sin.

I don’t have to feel better to believe God.

40″ Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40 NIV

My feelings may linger and the struggle may remain, but by choosing to fill my mind with what is true I can respond with grace and peace. I preach the Gospel to myself . . . God is making all things new . . . on this Hope I build my life.

I may feel alone and weak. I may feel unseen and unloved. I may feel like I don’t belong. These are feelings that are not based on Truth. We must always remember, any struggle that leads us to Jesus is a blessing in disguise.

Any problem or weakness in our life is a gift when it causes us to depend on God and look to Him for the help we need. So, when you feel this way, thank God that He has allowed you to feel needy and to realize you need Him. The Lord is your help and the lifter of your head. Those who look to Him are radiant! They will never be put to shame.

In our battles we need friends who will stand with us and show up when we are most in need. In order to discover such relationships, we must first pray and ask our Father in Heaven to develop that trait within ourselves and then be willing to be transparent about our lives.

If you are seeking godly, life-giving, truth speaking friendship . . . pray and ask God for the RIGHT people. Not every relationship is this kind of friendship, and that’s ok.

We may know a lot of people, but to have the “deep and real” desires met through true friendship is a gift from God. We must be the friend who honestly shares the struggles of our hearts . . . not afraid to admit weakness . . . testifying of God’s strength in that weakness . . . a people fighting hard battles of their own, yet unselfish with their time and hearts . . . friends who really connect and show up. We must beg God to mold us to be kind of friend who wants to tell the truth and open up, allowing themselves to be known. Lord help us to be brave souls who dare to love messy people.

By God’s grace this will produce life-giving relationships that frees us to step out of isolation and comfort in order to engage.

I feel like that is so rare these days. Let’s be honest, we all have a default setting of selfishness that results in the fear of being exposed . . . of letting our guards down enough to let anyone else in.

That feels so empty.

Don’t we all desire to have people who want to connect and who want to show up?

Why does it feel so hard?

God designed the church for unity . . . as a result of a deep relationship with HIM and one another.

Why are we so broken and disconnected? Why don’t we look different than the world? Why don’t we love like we should?

Separation and Isolation are tactics of the enemy. We are much more prone to defeat when alone . . . together we gain strength and power. Pulling away from relationships is never the way God intended. I’ve found that we have to fight for the people who matter to us. We cannot give up on the people God has given us. I know . . . it’s messy and hard, but it matters so much . . . it requires a lot from us . . . but we will gain so much more by choosing the hard way . . . God’s way!

The schedules most of us keep makes near impossible to BE with one another. The added use (at times abuse) of technology makes connecting with others challenging at the least. Time together must be a priority for “deep and real” to happen.

Screens have replaced face to face and we are all paying the price. We need each other and yet we still choose to hide. We choose safety over sacrifice . . . that is costing us more than we realize. It’s when we lay our lives down that we truly live. We will never find “deep and real” life by trying to protect our hearts and withdrawing from meaningful relationships. It’s when we enter into the messy, unknown, and unpredictable depths of relationship that we begin to live . . . it’s how God loves us and how we are love to each other. God may well indeed lead us to do what scares us, but as He does this, He leads us in growing friendships and reaching out to those are in need.

Again, “deep and real” is going beyond ourselves and what we know as comfortable and safe. It requires taking a risk even though we might get hurt or end up disappointed. Walk wisely, but walk bravely as God directs you. Don’t avoid the messy . . . it’s most often where God shows up and does what only He can do.

However, we know this is not easy for us. Most of us have things we are trying to overcome.

I can’t say I’m really good at this yet, because I still wrestle so much with my own issues and insecurities . . . but I want to grow. I want to love like God loves me. I hunger for deep, authentic relationships that glorify God. I may not find those relationships if I don’t step out in faith and take some risk by loving them, and they might in turn be the very friend in my moment of need!

Let’s keep on showing up in the lives of those God has given us. Faith over fear. Truth over lies. Strength in my weakness. Stronger . . . better together!

Lord, Help us believe you and LIVE out our faith . . . expressing it in love. You are so much bigger and better than we can imagine. When we feel discouraged and full of anxiety, thank you for giving us NEW MERCIES for TODAY as we spend time with you. Thank you for showing up in our lives and encouraging us through life-giving, truth speaking community. Jesus, in this crazy world help us keep our eyes on You . . . on what matters eternally- letting the things of this world go, and then to live a life of obedience out of love for you.

His way, for His Glory!

Monica and Chuck

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